Cover image for The greatest skating race : a World War II Story from the Netherlands
The greatest skating race : a World War II Story from the Netherlands
Borden, Louise.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
44 pages : color illustrations, map ; 24 x 29 cm
During World War II in the Netherlands, a ten-year-old boy's dream of skating in a famous race allows him to help two children escape to Belgium by ice skating past German soldiers and other enemies.
Reading Level:
NC 750 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.9 1.0 78014.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.5 3 Quiz: 35532 Guided reading level: P.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"You're a strong skater, Piet, and you have a quick mind. This is why I know you'll succeed in this important task. I wouldn't ask you to do this if I didn't know it could be done."
In 1941 Piet, a young Dutch boy from Sluis, gets the assignment of a lifetime: He must skate along the frozen canals of the Netherlands and across the Belgian border, in order to guide two neighborhood children to their aunt's house in Brugge, where the children will remain for the duration of World War II. Their father has been taken by German soldiers, and the children are no longer safe in Sluis -- but the journey with Piet, past soldiers and enemies, is fraught with danger.
Along the treacherous path to Belgium the three children skate using every bit of speed, courage, and strength they can muster. All the time they try to appear like innocent schoolchildren simply out for a skate, for if the German soldiers discover their escape plan, the children will be in grave trouble. During the journey Piet thinks about his hero, Pim Mulier -- the first person to ever skate the Elfstedentocht, the famous and prestigious Eleven Towns Race that takes place in his country. For years Piet has dreamed of proving that he is a skater as brave and strong as Pim Mulier -- but he had never imagined that his test would fall under such dangerous circumstances.
Louise Borden's moving text captures all the tension, excitement, and fear that comes with Piet's mission, while Niki Daly's evocative illustrations bring the children and their perilous journey into vivid focus.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 3-6. In this exciting World War II picture book for older children, a boy in the Netherlands helps two children escape to Belgium, where they will be safe from German soldiers. Piet, 10, is inspired by his country's great skating champion, and he has always dreamed of taking part in the famous national race. Now, however, he must race with Johanna and her little brother, Joop, along the frozen canals, past German guards, and over the border to safety. Piet's long, lucid, first-person narrative appears in short dramatic lines (I could feel the scrape of our blades against the ice / And I could feel the cold air inside my chest ), and Daly's sepia-tone illustrations stay true to the boy's viewpoint, both in the few tense, full-page close-ups (as when the children confront the border guards) and in the spacious views of the kids speeding through the white landscape. The focus on the historic skating race is sometimes confusing, but the war is always in the background, and the physical reality of the thrilling rescue will hold skating fans. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Gr 2-5-This slice of historical fiction celebrates the bravery and resourcefulness of children. In the winter of 1941, 10-year-old Piet, a strong skater, is enlisted to lead his two young neighbors from Holland to safety over the ice to relatives in Belgium after their father is arrested for sending messages to the allied forces. The three children leave their home in Sluis and bravely skate 16 kilometers on the canals to Brugge. They outwit and hide from German soldiers and make it to their destination in one long, difficult day. Told with immediacy and suspense from Piet's point of view, the engaging narrative is arranged in columns, which is an ideal structure to relate the action in short sentences. Readers learn about the Elfstedentocht, a 200-kilometer skating race, and the boy's hero, skater Pim Mulier. The gorgeously detailed watercolor illustrations capture a sense of the time. The subdued, winter hues of brown and smoky gray are those often found in the oil paintings of Dutch and Flemish masters and match the quiet tone of the text. The book's format maximizes the drama and expanse of the landscape. Use this picture book to introduce curricular units and to give youngsters a vivid child's-eye view of the past.-Shawn Brommer, South Central Library System, Madison, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.